Oregon Advises Schools With Increasing COVID Cases


FRANCE-EDUCATION-HEALTH-VIRUS

Photo: AFP

Photo: Getty Images

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) are partnering to prioritize the safety protocols needed to continue full-time, in-person school for all students. We know our students learn best in-person, where they have access to critical support and services. ODE and OHA last issued a School Health Advisory on March 2, 2022. That advisory was in effect until April 30, 2022. This advisory is in direct response to the change in CDC Community Levels seen in six counties in Oregon over the last two weeks and the rise of respiratory disease in communities across Oregon.

Today’s School Health Advisory is designed to help schools work with local partners to continue to operate in-person through the remainder of the school year.

As students and staff have gathered indoors without face coverings for protection, Oregon has experienced an increase in cases of respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. The combined burden of COVID-19flu and other respiratory viruses co-occurring in our communities means that schools will need to continue to be vigilant about health and safety in order to protect in-person instruction. For several weeks now most counties in Oregon have been categorized as "low" by the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels. This week six counties (Columbia, Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas, Benton, and Deschutes) are categorized as "Medium" which is why we are sending this notice. Our north star remains ensuring equitable access to in-person instruction all day, every school day, for every student.

The knowledge and operational experience school leaders have gained implementing layered mitigation safety protocols over the last two school years are key to maintaining in-person instruction. Implementing layered mitigation can prevent illness and keep students in school learning with teachers and staff. When school communities have illness rates that result in high numbers of staff and student absences, they should lean into the protection offered by layered mitigation safety protocols. Districts and schools should maximize implementation of layered mitigation strategies, including recommending face coverings or implementing universal use of face coverings, prior to contemplating a move to remote instruction or other closure of in-person instruction.

Schools and Local Public Health Authorities (LPHAs) have partnered to provide support for respiratory disease outbreaks long before the COVID-19 pandemic. At this stage of the pandemic, we are returning to pre-pandemic protocols for respiratory disease outbreak management. School leaders should monitor their community for high rates of absenteeism or unusual spread of disease, and notify their LPHA if the following thresholds are met:

  1. At the school level: ≥ 30% absenteeism, with at least 10 students/staff absent. 
  2. At the cohort level: ≥ 20% absenteeism, with at least 3 students/staff absent. For example, an elementary classroom of 25 students with 5 students absent, some with respiratory symptoms, would trigger a call to the LPHA partner.

LPHA response will vary by region. All LPHA partners will begin an outbreak investigation based on these respiratory disease thresholds and report the outbreak to OHA. Some public health recommendations may include universal use of face coverings while an outbreak is active, utilizing the enhanced testing program within cohorts, or other infection prevention and control measures.

To maintain health and safety along with continuity of instruction during school this spring, OHA and ODE are issuing the following School Health Advisory, to remain in effect statewide May 13 – August 31, unless otherwise updated.

For schools:

  1. Continue to closely monitor COVID-19 transmission within your county through COVID-19 Community Levels. In alignment with CDC and ODE, OHA strongly advises universal masking in K-12 settings when COVID-19 Community Levels are high. At all levels, individuals may choose to mask based on their individual risk assessment (e.g., increased risk for severe disease or family or community members at increased risk for severe disease).
  2. Schools should continue implementing free COVID-19 testing programs for students and staff.
  3. When districts or schools are considering a shift to remote instruction, they should first maximize implementation of layered mitigation strategies, including recommending face coverings or implementing universal use of face coverings, prior to contemplating a move to remote instruction or other closure of in-person learning.
  4. Schools should monitor unusual absenteeism or illness within a cohort and notify their LPHA about unusual respiratory disease activity if the following thresholds are met.
    1. At the school level: ≥ 30% absenteeism, with at least 10 students/staff absent. 
    2. At the cohort level: ≥ 20% absenteeism, with at least 3 students/staff absent.
  5. If students or staff have COVID-like symptoms, schools must exclude the individual per OAR 333-019-0010 (3) & (4). Schools may offer COVID testing to the individual through OHA’s Diagnostic Testing Program.

For families and community members:

We need your help to ensure our children have consistent access to in-person instruction across Oregon. When illness spreads through our community, in-person instruction is threatened in our schools and classrooms. You can help:

  1. If your child is sick with COVID-like symptomsdo not send them to school.
  2. Seek a COVID-19 test. Contact your local school about a testing kit or your local pharmacy.
  3. Eligible students ages 5 and up should get vaccinated and boosted when they become eligible.
  • Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness from COVID-19 and reduces spread of the disease.
  • Get Vaccinated Oregon.

Source: Oregon Health Authority


Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content